Intent is the key – thoughts on the way home form Software Craftsmanship 2009

Today has been interesting, I have been to conferences where you sit and listen, such as DDD, TechEd etc. I have been to conferences where everyone is encouraged to talk open spaces style such as Alt.Net, but today has fallen between the two styles.

The Software Craftsmanship 2009 conference has been in more of a workshop style; most sessions have started with a short presentation to set the scene then the attendees split to forms small groups to do some exercise or chat, reporting back later in the session. A sort of lead open spaces feel if you want.

As usual with events you need to let what you heard sink in, but I think it will be useful. Not so much in the 'I must do X to fix project Y' but in the general approach to development issues. This was a conference on craftsmanship, best practice in general not magic bullets. A good example was in the session on responsibility driven design with mock objects, where a good deal of time was spent discussing the important of variable/object names in the design. From this session you should not take away that 'View' is a bad name and 'Display' is a good one; but that the choice of the name is important to how you will view the intent of the test and the code you are writing.

I suppose this was the theme for the day, in development intent is key, why you do something is more critical than how. It is only through clear understanding of the intent of the business users that a developer can hope to design the best system. So often what the client asks for is based on what they think can be done and unless this requirement is challenged to get at the underlying intend the best solution (whatever best means to the project) will be missed. The same holds true with writing tests, it is vital that the test conveys the intent of what is being tested, else there is little hope for any future maintenance work when all the original staff have moved on. This means to me that the most important part of the user story is the 'so that they can' clause at the end, it is so often the window onto the truth of the real story intent behind the story.

So an excellent day all round, thanks to Jason Gorman and everyone else who helped to organise the event, I look forward to next years, and so should you if you are interested in your craft….